Holes in Cast Iron; FREAKIN OUT

34 Replies

After evicting my downstairs tenant from my duplex, I had to renovate the bathroom. I wanted to do as little as possible but we knew there was water damage in the flooring. Long story short it's been a full remodel down to the studs. During this remodel the plumber has discovered that the big cast iron waste pipe from upstairs has holes in it. They are fairly large holes. One is maybe 3 inches top to bottom and one inch wide at the largest part. The other hole is more like 1-2 inches round. They are in a big heavy cast iron pipe and right above and below the bell part. My plumber wants to cut open the floor and walls in the upstairs apartment (which is currently rented) in order to cut out that whole section of the pipe. While I appreciate his wanting to 'do the job right' (I truly respect that), I can't help but wonder if we couldn't find some sort of creative way to patch these holes? Maybe there is some product out there that will adhere and seal to a cast iron pipe? Some sort of tape and/or epoxy?  I'm not an expert at all in this area, so I'm hoping somebody from the community knows a great way to deal with this that won't cost thousands of dollars??  HELP!!!

Chris Jackson

    Flex Seal tape?

    Paul Bowers

      @Chris Jackson If the damage section of cast iron in in the downstairs unit, then the plumber should be able to cut out the damage and replace with PVC. The cut will use a rubber transition sleeve.  This assumes that the cast iron is not rotted away the entire length, just local damage.  Hard to know based on your post.

      If the cast iron has damage long the entire length, your wasting money by not replacing the whole thing.

      You can always bring in a second plumber for another opinion.

      Fix it right....or suffer a larger and more costly failure later.... your choice...

      Ned Jackson

        I don't know of (but I've never searched) how this would apply to your situation as it's usally done outside.... but they make liners

        https://www.nuflowtechnologies.com/trenchless-sewer-repair/

        Use a Fernco.  I think that is a brand name, but it is basically a rubber coupling that is held on with pipe clamps.

        Google Fernco flexible coupling.  You may have to split it to get it around the pipe, but they work great.  You will need to go to a plumbing supply house to get it.  The big box stores probably won't have them.

        If the cast is rusted through in one section its rusted through in other locations.  Cast iron sewer pipe is just a ticking time bomb.  Based on the holes you're already found you should replace it all.

        Jon Holdman

          Agree with everyone else. You found the problem and “patch” won’t stop the cast iron from oxidizing around it. Cut out as much of that pipe as you can and replace it with pvc. This damage over the past (60, 70...100) years isn’t just limited to sewer pipes— steam heat pipes see it a lot, too. Also, 3” is a huge section of decay— usually these are caught at about the size of a dime (because they leak).

          I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume this is a pipe that’s in a fundamentally horizontal position. Imagine how long (ahem) “waste” can sit in these spots and work through the pipe— and as soon as it starts, it gets a literal pocket where water & waste sits ALL the time (‘cause there’s a dip in the pipe that holds water and waste.) These dips aren’t limited to just that one tiny section.

          The verticals don’t usually see this type of damage, except at the Wyes. This repair falls into the category of Do it right, do it now... do it right now... unless you happen to like sewage and gasses threatening your asset.

          The only good news here? PVC is cheap. Not saying the labor or Job is, but at least it’s not copper!
          Good luck.

          Like John mentioned....if the pipe has essentially rusted out in several visible areas, its almost at that point in a bunch of areas you cant see just yet....its rotting from the inside out..... and you can just see the spots that have made it all the way through....fix it right....doing some band aid like suggested above is a temporary fix for a BIG issue that is waiting to happen....and when it does it going to cost you a TON more...fix it right.....

          Ned Jackson

            Cut out all of it and replace it. If there is a crack in it there is a good chance it runs the length of the pipe. Have had this problem a number of times.

            Originally posted by @Greg Parker :

            Google Fernco flexible coupling.  You may have to split it to get it around the pipe, but they work great.  You will need to go to a plumbing supply house to get it.  The big box stores probably won't have them.

            No licensed plumber would risk his license doing something like that .   If the pipe has holes in it , more are right on the verge of popping thru .   Fix it right the first time 

            Thanks for the advice guys!  Not what I wanted to hear, but basically what I expected, nonetheless.  

            Chris Jackson

              Contact your insurance. This is one thing that could be covered. And could help with all required work.

              Originally posted by @Matthew Paul :
              Originally posted by @Greg Parker:

              Google Fernco flexible coupling.  You may have to split it to get it around the pipe, but they work great.  You will need to go to a plumbing supply house to get it.  The big box stores probably won't have them.

              No licensed plumber would risk his license doing something like that .   If the pipe has holes in it , more are right on the verge of popping thru .   Fix it right the first time 

               Not necessarily true. I've dealt with hundreds of CIP issues over the past 20 years and problems can be systemic or localized. CIP deterioration is most negatively affected by soil issues (not applicable here), speed of flow through pipe (faster is better, within reason), and makeup of the effluent and gases within (mostly acidic for waste, possibly basic in heavy cleaning situations). If the section that's bad is at/close to a sharp bend, or has an obstruction, it's entirely possible that section could be extremely deteriorated compared to the rest of the pipe. 

              That said, I agree that if walls are open, and there's a big bad section, it's dumb not to replace it at this time. Deteriorated pipe cannot improve over time. 

              I just had a big section of an old iron main replaced. They tied it off in the attic, cut out a huge section and replaced it with PVC. That part of the repair was 1550.00. I didn't want to pay plumbers $95/hour to tear out ceilings and walls so my husband and  our handyman tore out the two layers of ceiling drywall over lathe and plaster and a metal mesh. Today they installed a joist mounted ceilingmax "suspended" ceiling with these molded looking tiles

              It looks real nice and future access to plumbing will be a breeze. Our tenant was real a trooper too.

              The flexible couplings are not "illegal".  If you are looking at $1,500 to replace pipe or $20 to fix the hole.  I would fix the hole with a Fernco and keep an eye on it.  From the code book:

              They’re designed for nonpressure (drain, waste, and vent) applications, and are manufactured in shielded (completely wrapped in stainless steel) and unshielded (stainless band clamps at each end only) versions. They’re accepted by a number of codes — including the Uniform Plumbing Code and the International Plumbing Code — for both above- and below-grade use

              Originally posted by @Greg Parker :

              The flexible couplings are not "illegal".  If you are looking at $1,500 to replace pipe or $20 to fix the hole.  I would fix the hole with a Fernco and keep an eye on it.  From the code book:

              They’re designed for nonpressure (drain, waste, and vent) applications, and are manufactured in shielded (completely wrapped in stainless steel) and unshielded (stainless band clamps at each end only) versions. They’re accepted by a number of codes — including the Uniform Plumbing Code and the International Plumbing Code — for both above- and below-grade use

              This is true , but to cut one and put it over a hole is a half A$$ repair . They are for coupling pipes , not patching holes 

              I agree.  Hammers are for nails, but I hit a lot of other things with it too.

              great stuff here! I'll contact my insurance people and see what they say and get that pipe repaired

              Chris Jackson

                @Chris Jackson there is is likely more areas that are going to become a problem in coming years. You are only seeing what has already rusted through. It is best to replace it all the way up to where it turns into a gas stack. As others suggested, use a rubber transition at that point. You don't need to replace it all the way up to the roof, because it becomes a gas vent after the last plumbing fixture joins in. In other words, there hasn't been water eating away at the gas stack portion. That will save you part of your wall and roof repairs. The tenant upstairs may feel inconvenienced, but not dealing with this will just create water damage in the future. Why deal with it twice, do it right now.

                Sometimes there are reasonable short cuts, but this is not one of those cases. Iron pipes have a limited life. If I was doing a tear down to stud remodel, I may even proactively replace old iron pipe if it wasn't leaking yet.

                Great post and replies, everyone. I agree with those who suggested fixing it Right. I have participated in the cutting out and repair of an upper apartment cast iron stack that involved pulling sink, countertop, and cabinet; busting out drywall and cutting studs. But, nonetheless, it is the type of problem that absolutely has to be fixed right, to ensure that you don't have to repeat the process twice for the same leak.

                George Jones

                  Originally posted by @Greg Parker :

                  The flexible couplings are not "illegal".  If you are looking at $1,500 to replace pipe or $20 to fix the hole.  I would fix the hole with a Fernco and keep an eye on it.  From the code book:

                  They’re designed for nonpressure (drain, waste, and vent) applications, and are manufactured in shielded (completely wrapped in stainless steel) and unshielded (stainless band clamps at each end only) versions. They’re accepted by a number of codes — including the Uniform Plumbing Code and the International Plumbing Code — for both above- and below-grade use

                   Question?   How do you 'keep and eye on it' when it is behind the wall?   By the time it leaks through the wall you will be paying for that section of the wall AND replacing the pipe.    I don't see the logic in your position.   

                  As the old saying goes... You either pay for it now or pay twice as much later. For me this a no brainer, I would replace the pipe. As a developer in Boston, I rip out cast iron pipes out of almost every property I rehab. 

                  If you're in the process of remodeling the first floor unit, the last thing you want is the pipe to start leaking again in 6 months and then you have to rip a newly remodeled unit apart to fix something you could have easily fixed now. 

                  my 2 cents

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